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Water forum celebrates Earth Day with litter bag distribution
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Water forum celebrates Earth Day with litter bag distribution

The Bitter Root Water Forum will be rolling out their Clean Up All Year program with the reusable litter bags on Wednesday, April 22, which is Earth Day.

The Bitter Root Water Forum (BRWF) is a community driven nonprofit organization that supports agriculture, community and recreation by protecting, enhancing and restoring the Bitterroot Watershed.

BRWF is encouraging folks to get out and clean up an area, while following social distancing practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on Wednesday. Utilize the BRWF’s clean up bags or use your own trash bags and dispose of the trash at home or at another legal dump site.

Last year, the BRWF’s Clean Up All Year Program piloted test sites for their reusable litter bags placing them at fly shops and at two fishing access points (Hannon Memorial and Bell Crossing).

“This year we will be shifting to have the majority of them at river access sites so we can get the bags in people’s hands as they are heading out on the river,” said Katie Vennie, program coordinator.

Having bags at 10 different river access and fishing access sites plus at a variety of fly shops in the area will provide immediate accessibility to reusable litter bags, which should be in place by Earth Day.

“For Earth Day, we are encouraging folks to take the opportunity to clean up their favorite area by the river using those reusable litter bags,” Vennie said.

There is also a photo contest associated with the Clean Up All Year program. Vennie said BRWF is encouraging people to take pictures of themselves with the bags while they are cleaning up and showing what they find along the river. Enter the photo contest by posting a picture on social media, tag @brwaterforum and use #BitterrootRiverCleanUp for your chance to win.

“Then we will pick a winner with our annual river clean up which is planned for Aug. 8,” Vennie said. “It will be our 15th year anniversary for the annual river clean up so we are planning for that to be a bigger extravaganza with encouraging more people to go out to clean the river. We are hoping for a party at Angler’s Roost to wrap that all up. We’ll see what happens but those are the plans as of right now.”

On Earth Day there will be another opportunity to engage with the Bitter Root Water Forum online as they are hosting a virtual training for community members wanting to be BRWF "Water Champions.” This training will also be Leading into the Bitterroot Gives Day an online donating event, which is next week, 5 p.m. on April 30 to 7 p.m. on May 1.

“Part of that is called ‘Peer to Peer’ fundraising and we’re starting a program for folks calling them ‘Water Champions,’” Vennie said. “It’s for folks wanting to get engaged with us that way, who feel very passionate about the river and what the Water Forum is doing. People can sign up to become a ‘Water Champion’ essentially that is signing up to help us spread the word about the Water Forum and encouraging people to support us and our efforts.”

Join the Water Champion Training that walks participants through the steps at 3 p.m. on Zoom on Wednesday, April 22. Sign up online through the BRWF Facebook event or their website. Bitterroot Gives is the online giving day that helps nonprofit organizations to showcase their services available in the Bitterroot Valley and reach out to friends and potential supporters.

“Bitterroot Gives helps support all of the local nonprofits that work so hard throughout the Bitterroot to make our community the wonderful place that it is,” Vennie said. “BRWF is excited to be part of that again this year.”

Vennie reported that last year’s event was successful and the surge of support for BRWF was appreciated.

“BRWF was the top organization in the Bitterroot raising over $12,000 with over 100 people donating,” she said. “We were also in the top five for Missoula Gives. There are maybe close to 200 nonprofits that get involved in Missoula Gives and we did well enough to even show up on their radar.”

Vennie said the situation is different this year.

“We hope for that success this year but we know this is a bit of a different time so we’ll see how that goes,” she said.

The Bitter Root Water Forum is encouraging people to get out and enjoy the Bitterroot River.

“We, of course, are also encouraging them to follow CDC guidelines as well as responsible recreation practices,” Vennie said. “Including social distancing of at least six feet, avoiding crowded spots, and wearing face masks. If you go to a place you are hoping to recreate at, but the parking lot is full, find another location. If you are not feeling well stay home and enjoy the view from your window.”

Vennie said that enjoying nature is helpful during this time.

“We are hoping people are able connect to the river and our water resources during this time,” she said.

“Hopefully, they can use this time of social distancing to use that connection and keep morale up and their sanity saved during this time. Always being aware of keeping themselves and those around them safe as well.”

For more information visit www.brwaterforum.org.

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